BREAKING: Public Safety arrests students during demonstration on academic quad
January 26, 2017
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At around 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, two men began spewing controversial political language on the academic quad at West Chester University. The two men stood near Main Hall and spoke on topics mainly targeting women. Topics such as abortion, abstinence and homosexuality stirred up multiple groups of students, who gathered in crowds of 30 or more in front of the men to respond to the demonstration.
According to the Department of Public Safety at WCU, two students were arrested on summary offenses. One student pushed one of the men and stole his sign, prompting a small foot chase and arrest by the Public Safety officers. The other student threw an egg at the activists. An egg hit one public safety officer.
“The last thing we want to do is arrest our students,” said Michael Bicking, chief of police and director of Department of Public Safety. “But in situations like this, emotions get high and sometimes we don’t think things through.”
The activists told onlookers that they were “pastors” from the Philadelphia area. One claimed to be “Pastor Aden” of a church in north Philadelphia. The two men have body cameras on to record reaction from those who pass by.
“None of us stand for anything you have to say,” said Sean Skulski, a graduate student and staff member at the Writing Center.
Skulski and members of the Writing Center gathered in front of the demonstration with a banner saying “Don’t Let ____ Become Acceptable,” inviting students to ignore the activists and instead write on the banner filling in the blank. Statements such as “Don’t Let Racism Become Acceptable” and “Don’t Let Sexism Become Acceptable” were just some of the many responses students had.
“It’s kind of unbelievable,” said junior Tassiah Shannon. “They’re basically talking about how we’re not accepting their world view, but they’re not really accepting ours either.”
Shannon and her friend Alex Lewis sat in the academic quad just to hear what the activists had to say.
“We walked by and he called us whores and saying we needed Jesus,” said Lewis.
Around 2 p.m., a Campus Climate Intervention Team Alert was sent from John Villella, chief of staff and executive deputy to the president, to staff, faculty and student emails. The email said, “The Public Safety Office has informed my office that representatives of ‘Mathew 24’ are in the Academic Quad area. Public Safety will have a visible presence and monitor the activity.”
Many professors and students were on hand by 2:30 p.m., advising onlookers not to respond to the demonstration, saying that the activists want to film passerby reaction.
Public Safety officers refrained from arresting the two men because of their First Amendment right to free speech. They did remain on the academic quad to ensure safety and prevent escalation.
Sunny Morgan is a second-year student majoring in communication studies with a journalism minor. She can be reached at [email protected] Her Twitter is @SunnyMorgan97.